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Arslan (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Dec 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 2010 edition (9 Dec. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575095016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575095014
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 509,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"This is wonderful and terrifying SF--terrifying because its premise, the takeover of the United States by a third-rate world power, is at once so preposterous and yet, in the hands of this highly skilled writer, so stupefyingly believable. Certainly "Arslan" is the best political novel I've read in more than a decade."--Samuel R. Delany

"Engh creates a truly shocking situation, introduces a monstrous character, and then refuses to satisfy any of the emotions he has aroused . . . Engh's performance is as perversely flawless as Arslan's."--"The New York Times"

""Arslan "is an astonishing novel--not just for its strange and uncompromising content, but as well for the unforgivable passing of a decade before its being published in a permanent edition. This phantasmagorical vision of an America occupied by a foreign power is a tour de force. It is shocking, chilling and thoughtful."--Edward Bryant

"Arslan's goal is not merely to conquer the world, but to destroy it. Just by chance, it seems, he has chosen a small Illinois town to be the capital of his all-embracing empire. Yet this is not really the tale of great world events. It all comes down to a handful of unforgettable men and women, whose pain and cruelty and compassion shine a spotlight on human nature. What makes Engh's novel extraordinary is her perfect understanding of power, how it grows out of the heat between people who hate and fear each other. Arslan makes Khomeini look wishy-washy, as he takes ordinary people and tears at them until they die, or become strong enough to be his rivals. "Arslan" starts with a strong science fiction premise--and then raises it to the level of the greatest tragedies. You will find surprises almost from the start, as Engh shatters the tired cliches of the genre. And by the end of the book, exhausted and fulfilled, you will realize you have read something that stands head and shoulders above the other fiction of its time."--Orson Scott Card
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A classic of political science fiction.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of M. J. Engh before, but bought Arslan (first published in 1976) because it had an arresting cover and was published as part of the Gollancz SF Masterworks series. It's a powerful and unsettling novel - I was glad the extreme brutality of the opening chapter didn't continue throughout the book, although violence and conflict are never far away.

The premise is an odd one, but is carried through with confidence. Arslan, a general from `Turkistan', becomes the leader of a Soviet backed coup in which the US's defences are disabled, allowing Arslan to take control of America. He makes the small town of Kraftsville his headquarters, and we, together with the citizens of Kraftsville, gradually learn more about his plans, which are partly driven by a (very dark) green agenda, and a wish to return humanity to a more self-sufficient way of life.

Arslan is compared with Tamburlaine, and the novel, like Marlowe's play, is morally disorienting, and made me wonder quite how we were meant to respond to its ruthless but charismatic central character and his radical environmentalist agenda. It's a really astonishing novel, and fully worthy of its place in the Masterworks series. However the second half is not quite as compelling as the first.
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Format: Paperback
Some titles in the SF Masterworks series are doomed to attract reviews saying "this is terrible it is nott what i call sci-fi". Arslan is definitely one of those. If you're looking for space-opera, sensawunda, fast-paced adventure and clockwork plotting with neat resolutions, don't go near it with someone else's barge-pole. You'll only get wound up and end up writing misleading one-star reviews that don't help anybody.

If, on the the other hand, you believe SF can be a medium for serious consideration of serious themes, give it your urgent attention. Arslan tells of what happens when the title character, a central Asian warlord, takes control of the entire world, and, in particular, how this affects a small Illinois town, Kraftsville, where he sets up his headquarters. The book's main weakness is its failure to give a fully credible explanation as to how this happens, why he chooses Kraftsville and why, eventually, the citizens accept him as one of their own. Engh touches on all of these things, but they remain a little underdeveloped and unconvincing. This - and the portrayal of Arslan himself, which isn't quite as compelling as it needs to be - means the book isn't quite the masterpiece some have said. Nevertheless, it's a very significant achievement, one of the best novels of character in the entire SF canon, and well worth five stars. The one-star reviews elsewhere are egregious claptrap. Example: they suggest that nothing very much happens, which is complete codswallop. Plenty happens. It just doesn't happen in the melodramatic manner that's usual in genre fiction, and the ending is downbeat and ambiguous because life isn't like genre fiction.
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Format: Paperback
I realise I've basically stolen the title of another review on here, but it's a very accurate title.

Arslan is one of the better written titles in the SF Masterworks series; it is one of the hardest to read and possibly the least escapist of the lot. I found it rewarding and would recommend it to others, despite its difficulty and occasional unpleasantness. It will not be enjoyed by everyone: it's serious, dark and its flaws many annoy you more than they did me.

Arslan, the titular character, takes over the world and establishes his base in the rural town of Kraftsville, Illinois. He celebrates world conquest by having a nice meal and raping two 13 year-olds. He then sets about changing the world. The story is told alternately by two narrators: Franklin Bond and Hunt Morgan. Franklin narrates simply, pragmatically and his sections focus on advancing the story. Hunt narrates completely differently: his narration focuses on himself and his emotions; he writes more lyrically than Franklin and often describes events achronologically; he also describes events already covered by Franklin, but from his perspective. His writing, while considerably more interesting than Franklin's, is also more hard going and can get a little irritating.

Arslan, the novel, focuses on the changing relations between the titular character and the two narrators. It's a story about power, the abuse of power, humiliation, rejection, love, forgiveness, etc. I am glad it has been brought back as an SF Masterwork, it is certainly deserving of its place in the series. While writing this review I was torn between rating 4 or 5 stars, because of the flaws listed below, but ultimately decided on 5 stars. A powerful read that leaves a lasting impression.
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